Hormonal Problems

Oestrogen
Oestradial, a form of oestrogen, is secreted by the developing follicles and it reduces the secretion of FSH from the pituitary. One of its main functions is to develop the endometrium in preparation to receive a fertilized ovum a few days after ovulation. The endometrium must be at least 7mm thick to achieve a viable pregnancy, and ideally 10-15mm thick.

Oestrogen is also responsible for producing the fertile mucus at midcycle (see below).

Research has shown that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can boost oestrogen levels.

Progesterone
Once ovulation has occurred, the sufficient maintenance of the secretory endometrium is achieved by the effects of progesterone, produced by the corpus luteum, to enable the implantation of the embryo. Poor progesterone output indicates a luteal phase defect. During IVF cycles, synthetic progesterone supplements are sometimes given to support the pregnancy. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can be used to promote natural progesterone production, and many studies have demonstrated that the correct application of herbs can restore a regular cycle with a good biphasic BBT and an efficient luteal phase.

Prolactin
Hyperprolactinaemia (elevated prolactin in the blood) can result in anovulation, as prolactin inhibits the release of FSH and LH. In the experience of infertility specialists in China, hyperprolactinaemia is mainly related to Liver Qi Stagnation, and rarely to Kidney Deficiency. This is one of the few types of infertility where treatment will be directed simply at clearing stagnation. Once the stagnation is cleared, the menstrual cycle will be regulated. As there is no Kidney deficiency involved in most cases, the ovulation is unlikely to produce inferior quality eggs. If the cause of the prolactinaemia is a result of a pituitary tumour, however, drug treatment with bromocriptine is likely to yield faster results in achieving ovulation. Studies in China have found acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to be very effective in treating elevated prolactin and in bringing on ovulation. (See research)

FSH
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is the first hormone to be released at the beginning of each menstrual cycle. It is produced by the anterior pituitary gland at the base of the brain, and its role is to stimulate the formation of follicles in the ovaries. As the follicles begin to grow, oestradial ( a form of oestrogen) is released into the blood system in increasing amounts by the developing follicles. The increasing amount of circulating oestradiol acts as a negative feedback on the pituitary function, thereby inhibiting the FSH production. FSH is therefore a measure of ovarian response to pituitary stimulation. The lower the FSH, the more healthy the ovarian activity. High FSH levels are generally said in western medicine to be indicators of the menopause. Women with high levels of FSH are often turned away from fertility clinics because they generally respond poorly, if at all, to the drugs used to stimulate their ovaries for IVF treatment. Experience, however, has shown that when these women follow a course of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, their FSH levels can fall, improving their chances of success in an assisted conception treatment cycle or increasing the chances of a natural pregnancy. ( See research.)

Case History
C, aged 41, had high FSH levels (22). She was using donor sperm. She had had 4 IUIs, one of which resulted in a pregnancy, but which she miscarried after 10 weeks. Her periods had become shorter €“ only 2 days €“ and she suffered from bad PMT and bloating. Her sleep was poor and her body basal temperature was erratic.

Her Chinese medical diagnosis was Yin Deficiency with Empty Heat, and Qi stagnation. She was given acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine, and after 3 months her FSH had returned to normal. She immediately had her IUI, and now has an 8-month-old daughter.